By Miranda Barzey
Whether you're a college student, a college dropout like me, or even a college graduate, you'll find it can be hard to stick to a paleo diet when there's not much in the bank. But don't reach for the ramen just because you can't afford grass-fed beef! There are many ways to eat healthy and save money.
- Invest in filling foods. I find that eating meals high in fat keep me satiated throughout the day. A salad is perfectly paleo, but you might be hungry again soon. Buying foods that will fill you up longer will cut down your snacking and your spending. I recommend ground beef, fatty meat cuts, coconut oil, and nuts.
- Make casseroles, stews, soups, and other nutrient dense meals. And make them big. By buying meats and veggies in bulk, you can create a cheap meal that will feed you several times over and contain protein, vitamins, and fat. I personally love making a chicken bake with carrots, peas, onions, and cheese. Look online for recipes and augment them for your own dietary needs.
- Stop worrying about grass-fed, free range, and organic foods. Yes, they are wonderful, and if you can buy them, then do it. I don't dispute that these foods are cleaner and better for you, but don't think all is lost if you buy store-brand eggs. Take what you can when you're short and splurge when you can. I personally go by taste. For me some foods are worth buying organic because they taste better, like eggs and half and half. But I don't lose sleep at night that my hamburgers aren't grass-fed. Again, do what's right by you, but don't break the bank.
- Go in with friends for farm-imported foods. If you do want to get the freshest food possible,consider going in with friends for an order and split the shipping costs. Or if there's a co-op close enough, take turns driving to pick up the goods. This works well for items hard to find in stores like lard.
- Grow your own food. I swear, there's nothing better than a ripe tomato just picked from your back garden. If you have the space and enough light, try growing your food. Many plants grow well in pots and you can maximize space with hanging planters. I plan to do this soon on my own back porch!
- Check the price per ounce. Most grocery stores these days have the price per ounce on the shelf tag, usually in the upper left hand corner. Pay attention to that while shopping. It can help you determine if it's worth buying a larger size or going with the store brand.
- Buy in bulk and freeze in single servings. I hate going to the grocery store all the time, so I like to stock up. I buy large bags of vegetables and meat, then divide them into single servings in ziplock bags, and freeze. I can pull out food as needed and I don't waste any food by not eating it before it goes bad. This also works for cooking as well. You can have a big cooking day and then freeze individual portions of what you've made. Reheat for instant paleo-friendly meal.
- Buy bone-in meat. Chicken quarters with bones and skin are incredibly cheap. Boneless and skinless breast meat requires more processing, thus costs more. But that works out just fine for paleo eaters; we can take advantage of the cheap fatty meats.
- Save bones and vegetable bits for homemade stock. Chicken, pork, and beef bones can be frozen and saved to make homemade stock. Unwanted parts of vegetables like leafy tops and skins can also be saved to flavor the stock.
- Buy produce in season. Fruits and vegetables will taste better and be cheaper if you buy them in season. Do a quick Google search for in season produce while making a grocery list.
- Have a paleo potluck. Get together with other paleo eaters and have a potluck. You pay for one dish and get a whole meal. It's also a great way to learn new recipes and cooking techniques. Be sure to check for any allergies among participants.
- Drink water. It's free at restaurants and cheap at home (unless you have yucky Atlanta chlorine tap water).
- Limit eating out. Eat at home as much as you can. Pack a lunch instead. Fill it with all the yummy nuts, fruits, meats, and cheeses you can't get at most places. Bring a water bottle to fill up from the water fountain instead of buying water. Suggest friends come over for a home-cooked meal. If you can't avoid going to a restaurant, eat beforehand and order something small, like coffee or an appetizer.